Photo taken at the confluence of the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers
- Estimated distance travelled this season: 2,432 km
- Estimated distance travelled since Victoria, BC: 4,320 km
- Total distance portaged since Victoria, BC: 240 km
- Number of National Historic Sites visited by river: 4 (Fish Creek, Batoche, Petite Ville, Prairie Ronde)
- Favourite gear system this season: Sierra Designs Tengu 2 tent and sleeping bags with OR Downmat 9’s to cushion and insulate us from the ground.
- Best customer service experience this season: Outdoor Research sent us a Downmat 9 replacement (inflatable sleeping mat filled with down) to Nipawin, SK after the discharge valve became clogged with feathers. We explained our situation to them via satellite telephone from the river. They were courteous, efficient and helpful. We only had to use tweezers a couple of mornings to unclog the valve so that the mat could be deflated and packed.
- Number of bears Taq has scared away from camp (that we know of): 6
- Number of birds eaten: 6 (Number of shots fired: 5)
We’re in Saskatchewan!
Saskatchewan has really lived up to its license plate slogan: “Land of Living Skies”. We were especially fortunate to enjoy a sunset and full-moon rise from the “sky-trail” in Outlook, SK, the longest pedestrian bridge in Canada. Awesome!
When I first saw this ladybug floating atop the feather, I thought they were beautiful little beetles. They ended up becoming a big nuisance. We became inundated with thousands of them crawling into our canoe, gear and tent, and flying into our faces. We were constantly brushing them off our legs and feet.
Geoff has been eagerly awaiting bird hunting season. This is our chance to gather food on the trip as the pioneers had before us. He shot these two Blue-winged Teals with one shot. It took us about an hour to pluck all of the little feathers, and then Geoff roasted them over a fire. We enjoyed them with spaghetti, garlic and parmesan cheese. Other birds eaten include three Ruffed Grouse and one Spruce Grouse.
The Delta Bessborough in Saskatoon, SK, has been our favourite “campsite” so far. I surprised Geoff with one nights stay on our way through. When I called to make a reservation, they acted as though people paddle up to the back gate with a 105 lb. Malamute and an 18 foot canoe all the time! Justin (bellman in top right photo) helped us manoeuvre our canoe and gear through the hotel to the storage room. Cassian (bottom left picture) helped us carry the canoe through the lobby and out the front doors in preparation for our portage around the weir.
How do we fit enough gear and food for 4 weeks, two 23L water jugs, two full grown people, AND an Alaskan Malamute in an 18 foot canoe? We don’t know. All I know is that Taq has more room than Geoff and I combined…and he hasn’t learned to paddle yet. The top-left picture is Taq sleeping with his head underneath my seat in the bow. When I looked down, his nose was poking out between my feet. The top-right picture shows how Taq regularly rides in the canoe…on the gunwales! Notice the canoe is tilted to the left and that he isn’t even using half of his allotted space. It makes steering interesting when there is random ballast in the canoe! Taq likes to rest in interesting places. In the bottom picture, he is laying on top of driftwood, using one of his large paws as a pillow.
We are happy to be finished all of the dam portages of the prairies (pardon the pun). From Alberta to Saskatchewan, we’ve portaged around a total of 8 dams and 3 weirs.
We have camped at some beautiful places (clockwise from top left): Lake Diefenbaker, South Saskatchewan River just after Gardiner Dam, top of Codette Lake (frosty grass and canoe), and underneath huge cottonwoods 50 km before Saskatoon on the South Saskatchewan River.
There is no shortage of wind in the prairies. Some days the waves were too big for us to venture out. When we thought the wind might calm down in the evening, we’d pull into a protected bay and wait. To pass the time we’d listen to the radio, read, explore, and sometimes (as shown in the picture on the right), catch up on a few hours of sleep.
Thank you to the following people:
- Pak Wong (Pam’s Dad) has done a lot of driving this season to help us. Once again, he drove us back out to Saskatchewan Landing and picked us up when we pulled off for the season at E.B. Campbell Dam on Tobin Lake, SK. We are grateful to Allyson Wong (Mom) and Jonathan Wong (Brother) for covering at the Greenhead Motel & Restaurant while Pak drove many hours and hundreds of kilometres to help us.
- We met Brad Simonson at the Riverhurst Ferry. It was too windy to paddle, so we decided to take the ferry across Lake Diefenbaker and visit the town of Riverhurst. Brad was kind enough to give us a ride into town on his welding truck.
- Donna Miner of Riverhurst, SK, was kind enough to open the F.T. Hill Museum (very impressive) for us. In addition, she allowed us to check the wind forecast on the internet.
- Dave Miller (of J.N. Miller’s Service) and his wife (very sorry to have forgotten her name) helped me wrap up a cactus to mail home. In addition, Dave gave us a ride back to the Riverhurst Ferry.
- Mary Jones (also of Riverhurst) has lived in Riverhurst for 54 years. We are very grateful she stopped to welcome us.
- Barry and Don shared some interesting information about the Riverhurst Ferry they work on. We were thrilled to look down onto Lake Diefenbaker from the crowsnest.
- Jonathan Wong (Pam’s brother) gave us the wind forecast over the next few days so that we could plan accordingly.
- Miriam Hills (Pam’s Aunt) sent us with jars of homemade moose stew, saskatoons, and pickles. A delicious treat!
- Ray & Gloria Zlatnik helped us transport some of our gear during the Gardiner Dam portage.
- Leo & Judy Corneillier offered to baby-sit Taq while Geoff and I ordered food for takeout at a restaurant in Outlook, SK. In addition, they gave all of us a ride with our bags of groceries.
- Floyd & Donna Howell of Outlook, SK invited us into their home for showers, internet, evening snack and lunch the next day! They also gave us a corkscrew so that we could enjoy a bottle of red wine we had purchased in Outlook. Thank you also for the care package of delicious cookies, juice boxes, oranges and garden tomatoes and cucumbers.
- We enjoyed chatting with Lucille Perry of Loreburn, SK, over cups of tea and coffee at the local coffee shop.
- Doris Lustig and Donna Johnson are some of the friendliest Canada Post workers we’ve met (and we’ve met plenty of friendly folks!) They helped us wrap packages and mail them home. We greatly appreciate Canada Post’s presence in the small communities we travel through.
- We enjoyed a cup of tea/coffee at Sue Peterson’s home on the South Saskatchewan River. We were a little nervous as 5 sheepdogs enthusiastically greeted Taq, but there weren’t any problems. Lots of sniffing and tail wagging.
- Colleen McIntosh and Dr. Diane Bekolay make a habit of kayaking down the South Saskatchewan R. weekly to watch the birds in summer. We shared lunches at the unofficial dog park outside of Saskatoon. They watched Taq for us while we were doing an interview on the phone with the CBC Saskatchewan Afternoon Edition. Diane gave us a heads-up about a nude beach downriver on the right….we just didn’t realize she meant right away! What else can you do, but wave nonchalantly and paddle?
- The staff at the Delta Bessborough were incredible. They made a couple of filthy canoeists feel like rock stars. We especially appreciated Justin Nenson’s assistance getting our gear and canoe into the hotel, and Cassian’s help carrying it out.
- Kate Gibbons gave Geoff a tour of the Anglican Church while she was preparing for a funeral. It was very kind of her to take the time to talk about its history and artifacts.
- The staff at the Batoche National Historic Site were very helpful and informative. They even delayed the interpretive presentation for us while we tied Taq up in the shade. We are grateful they were patient with our impatient dog. A very worthwhile stop if anyone is passing by the Batoche area.
- Nanette from Outdoor Research gave us outstanding customer service when we called her to find out how we could exchange our damaged sleeping mat.
- Laurie & Beverly Meyers invited us into their home for a shower, dinner and breakfast. We had a wonderful sleep in their cabin overlooking the river.
- We met Eddie Head at the beginning of Codette Lake. He generously gave us a package of pickerel and some ginger cookies.
- Michelle & Ian Webster of Nipawin & District Regional Park were incredible hosts. They helped transport our gear to and from the cabin that we stayed in while we waited for the post office to open on Monday morning.
- Russ Binkley lives in Ontario, but his father lives in Nipawin. He has hunted with Geoff for many years. Co-incidentally Russ was visiting his father over the same weekend that we were in Nipawin. Over coffee at Twin Marine Russ inquired if the managers had seen a red canoe go past. As luck would have it, our canoe was there, and they directed Russ to our cabin. What a surprise to see a familiar face at the cabin door! What a small world!
- Hugh MacDonald of MacSwaney’s Cabins & Lodge in Nipawin was also a wonderful host. He gave us some names of people we could talk to about the old channel vs. the new channel. Also, he gave us a package of delicious elk sausage. We enjoyed it while paddling on Tobin Lake.
- Lyle Hosler and Brenda MacDonald of Saskatchewan Watershed Authority in Nipawin were very helpful. Lyle gave us one of the most valuable pieces of information we’ve received on the trip: we have a right to navigable waters. This means that if a manmade object such as a dam or weir obstructs a natural travel route, the company is required to provide an appropriate route or portage around it. SaskPower take their responsibility one step further; they will transport paddlers and gear (we insist on carrying the canoe) around their dams and power stations. Unfortunately, we became aware of this law 2 provinces after we’d been finding our own way around manmade obstacles. Good to know for the future.
- Katy MacDonald (Geoff’s mom) gave us the wind forecast for Tobin Lake so that we could plan accordingly.
- Curtis & Theresa Lockwood of Twin Marine graciously allowed us to store our canoe in the locked compound behind their marina. They run a friendly place with great food and service.
- Chuck Webb of Prudens Point Resort allowed us to camp even though he was closed for the season. It is always a treat to eat dinner while seated at a picnic table.
- Ron and Donalda Krieg of Wilderness Ministries Bible Camp and Retreat Centre offered us a place to camp when the wind was too strong for us to continue on Tobin Lake. We enjoyed the soup and sandwiches they made for dinner, it was a pleasure to be wind bound in such a beautiful and friendly place.
- Josie and Serrena Sapara live at the Wilderness Ministries Bible Camp and Retreat Centre. Josie gave us a jar of homemade chokecherry jelly and pickles. We are grateful for the grilled cheese sandwiches she made for lunch. Serrena shared her boundless 7 yr old energy with us. Taq followed her everywhere. She managed to tire him out – no small feat!
- Tim Seely (?) of SaskPower gave us a tour of the area surrounding E.B. Campbell Dam. He also transported our gear to the campground. We are grateful he left the gates open for us as a shortcut while we were portaging the canoe.
- Larry Trask is a stone worker who resides in Nipawin, SK. He took the time to show us his incredible stone sculptures.
- A big thank you to Glenn and Mary Fidler at Regenesis Holistic Inc. for their continued hard work as our website sponsor. They keep the website up to date with sightings and media stories, as well as formatting and e-mailing the newsletters.
Where do we go from here?
Living in a canoe is pretty affordable; however, it is not free. We will be working in Calgary this winter until the end of April. Our plan is to head back out next year when the ice goes out at the beginning of May. Thank you very much for the many e-mails and letters of support. They mean a great deal to us. Have a great winter everyone!